Monday, January 17, 2011

Circles - "Away With the Tide"

Away With the Tide

My friend Nick Millevoi plays guitar in a lot of different contexts.  Most of it falls in the umbrella of free jazz, or at least of free-thinking jazz moves applied to music in other genres.  He used to be the leader of a band called Cirles, though, which at its most exciting moments played what I like of think of as free rock.*  Free rock, in my lose conception, isn't rock dudes totally shredding with lots of dissonance and improvisation (as in Nick's excellent current band, Many Arms) -- that's more like rock fusion.  Free rock has songs, and songs that would make sense as rock songs of one subgenre of rock or another, but that are being muddied, confused, and ripped apart by the musicians' rendering.

On "Away With the Tide," the plaintive melody and it's slight variation with double-Nick harmony repeat with only a quick break for the duration of the song, ceding the foreground to the two drummers, rumbling faster and slower, like Sunny Murray more than any other classic free jazz drummer (maybe. . . someone correct me if there's a closer comparison).  Despite his formidable ax abilities, Nick approaches his instrument only for accompanying arpeggiation, speeding and slowing, but never varying from his chord progression.   The entrance halfway through of Dan Blacksberg on trombone brings only brilliant coloration of the harmonies, but no wailing.  We're left humming along with the vocals -- and four years after I first heard it I'm still happy every time this song gets stuck in my head -- and marveling at how much better a piece of music this is for lacking the bland drumming of the radio country rock that could accompany that melody.

Alas, after many line-up changes since this recording, Circles has been inactive for a while now. Perhaps we'll find out in the comments section below whether they're "broken up." 

*Yeah, I know, Nick.  Many Arms has songs.  And Storm & Stress, who I think of as the height of free rock, just barely did. Maybe I still need to work on this theory.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is really awesome Ben, thanks.

    Circles isn't "broken up" in the same way it's not together. At some point in the future, I bet it'll be active in some form. I wrote some songs this summer that were going to be a new Circles EP, but my enthusiasm kind of faded for those particular songs.

    I also consider Storm & Stress the height of free rock. But I consider People part of that too and they've definitely got worked out song parts. I think of free rock as mostly a rhythmic approach, so I think your theory works.